Saint Jean D’Carroll Slays The Beast.

(Photo by Steve Villano, of the Statue of Sainte Jeanne D’Arc at the Cathedrale of Notre Dame de Paris, May, 2012, Paris, France.)

The 2024 Presidential Election ended this week, and a tough, intelligent, courageous, and persistent 80-year old woman pointed the way to dignity and victory. Like Sainte Jeanne D’Arc of France, E. Jean Carroll is our new national symbol of freedom and independence.

 This lightening bolt for justice—the E. Jean Carroll defamation case against Donald Trump, a beast of modern times, gives hope to people being picked on around the world—and to Democrats, if they are paying attention–how pure guts, a steel spine,  persistence, and an unshakeable determination to never back down in the face of pure evil, will triumph.

This brave woman–sexually assaulted, abused and libeled on a huge scale by former President Donald Trump–beat the lawless sexual abuser, liar, convicted libeler, and fraud on his newest preferred campaign turf:  the Courthouse.  Today, she stands astride him, sword of justice pointing toward the heavens, our new national shero.  Oh, how Trump’s maggot supporters will despise the use of that term.

Trump never really saw Jean D’ Carroll’s slaying strikes coming, since she had a few time-tested  weapons on her side whose existence Trump has never recognized: the law, and the truth.  In short, she and her kick-ass team of attorneys led by Roberta Kaplan, took no shit, which, in the end, is all Trump really is.

Acting more like Oliver Sacks’ The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Trump–who mistook E. Jean Carroll for his–also mistook his own lies for the truth. 

That approach may work at MAGA cult covens, or when dining on the world’s “best” cake at Mar-A-Lago, but not before a real, live judge and jury.  When Trump whines that “the courts are out of control,” what he means is that they are out of his control— precisely how a legal system in a democracy should work.

Outraged that he lost a $5 million sexual abuse and libel case to Carroll last year, Trump—never a financial nor legal genius— decided to double-down, multiplying his initial loss nearly 18 times (to a total of $88 million) by seeking “retribution” against his sex abuse victim in print, at his MAGA mosh pits, and on national television.   The crapulent, spoiled brat, chauffered to private school in his mother’s rose-colored Rolls Royce, just couldn’t stand the fact that years after he physically and emotionally abused her, Carroll–refusing to bow before him–continued to wield her sword of truth and the law against him, over and over again in Court.   Each new Trump lie became a new cause of action.

There are historic implications for this case, which will, open the floodgates in the other pending civil and criminal cases against Trump.  Courage begets courage.

With a mostly white, mostly male, mostly middle-class jury finding that for repeatedly lying about the sexual assault Trump was found guilty of committing, and for incessantly smearing the name and reputation of his victim, Donald Trump deserved extraordinary—and swift—punishment.  The sword of justice struck a blow for fairness and decency.

In short, the jury of average American citizens spoke with a unanimous, strong & clear voice in its’  $65 million punitive damages award, that  “no man is above the law, nor does a sitting or former President have immunity from such actions.”   To underscore the message this jury was sending to Trump and monsters like him, the more the former President abused his power and libeled the woman he sexually abused, the more he would be punished.   The bellicose bully would, at last, be held accountable.

The jury from urban and suburban counties in and around NYC, where Trump was born, refused to be intimidated by the threats of violence by Trump’s deranged supporters.  Neither was the courageous E. Jean Carroll—whose name, unlike the jurors’, could not be kept secret—and who received numerous death threats over several years.

In Mary L. Trump’s Substack column on the day of the verdict in the Carroll case, Trump’s niece, a clinical psychologist, wrote:

Donald is someone who has gone through his entire life without facing consequences—and I believe he thinks he can get away with everything.  Today, that changed. It was one of the first times Donald has been made to answer for his egregious behavior.”

It will not be the last, especially with so many Trump trials coming to fruition over the next few months.   If one, 80-year old woman’s persistence for justice can make Trump pay severely for the horrendous consequences of his actions, what kind of inspiring incentive does that verdict give Special Counsel Jack Smith, and Prosecutors like NYS Attorney General Tish James, and Fulton County DA Fani Willis?  In those cases, there are tens of millions of victims.

One of the most sweeping statements which puts the Carroll verdict in context for Trump’s upcoming trials and for the Elections of 2024, came from one of Carroll’s attorneys, Shawn Crowley, to MSNBC, on the day of the jury’s decision:

I believe very strongly after today, that the lesson is that actually, no one is above the law. And, that your behavior, and your statements, and your threats and your lies are gonna catch up to you someday.”

Someday for Trump, was January 26, 2024; we know it, and he knows it.

But, it was E. Jean Carroll herself, radiant in victory, head held high in the glow of justice achieved, who perfectly articulated the call to action for women just like her, and millions of others fed up with being abused by well-connected, people in power, and the cages those ghouls construct to rob humans of fundamental rights:

“ This is a great victory for every woman who stands up when she’s been knocked down, and a huge defeat for every bully who has tried to keep women down.”

THIS is the battle cry for the 2024 Elections, for American women and men who care about the Rule of Law, and the dignity, personal rights and freedoms, of every human being.  

 Carroll’s clarion call for justice is already reverberating across the country with women of all ages, who know what’s at stake in 2024, and whose personal freedom to control what happens to their own bodies was ripped away by religious and political extremists, like Trump and his MAGA cult.

Donald Trump’s devastating defeat by freedom’s fearless “saint” Jean D’ Carroll and her formidable phalanx of female legal fighters, may look largely financial, for now. 

But don’t be fooled by appearances.  When the sword of justice is unsheathed, it’s light and power will change the world.

“Wheelhouse Kelley” Wins Me Over.

(Photo by Steve Villano, at Healdsburg Plaza, CA; December, 2022)

“Wheelhouse Kelley.”  

Turn that name over on your tongue a few times and what comes to mind?

 A Formula One race car driver?  A boxer with a terrific move?  A candidate for public office who never gives up?

The name jumped out at me as clear as the bell at the end of a boxing round, as I read the Press Democrat’s lengthy story about the 7-way fight for our California Assembly District (#2), which, serpentine-like, snakes it’s way from Santa Rosa, all the way up to the Oregon border.  This State Legislative district is the giant Salamander of all Gerrymanders.

As each of the six Democratic candidates were explaining why they would be best to represent our district, one comment leaped out at me.  It came from Healdsburg Mayor Ariel Kelley about how her hands-on experience governing a small city, and running several public service non-profit organizations, made her the best choice for the Assembly district which represents a wide-range of communities:

They’re small cities, a lot of rural unincorporated areas, agricultural communities , environmental challenges, and those are things that are all in my Wheelhouse,” Kelley told the Press Democrat.

“Wheelhouse Kelley.” How perfect.  Visions of precinct captains or local block leaders from the Pulitzer-prize winning writer William Kennedy’s Ironweed series leapt out in front of me. 

Right in my Wheelhouse!”  That’s what Kennedy’s lyrical literary characters said when they knew they could deliver on fixing your problem, because they wouldn’t stop until they did.   Nothing could better describe Ariel Kelley’s indefatigable approach to problem solving, big and small.

Her approach to persistent public service became apparent to me as soon as we moved to Healdsburg three years ago, after living in suburban New York City; in several smaller cities in upstate New York State; in New York City, San Francisco, and Napa. 

Having worked with one of the finest public officials in my lifetime, the late Governor Mario M. Cuomo of New York, and devoted several decades of my career to public service and public health, I hold anyone in elected office to a very tough standard.  It was clear to me from the get-go that “Wheelhouse Kelley” had devoted her life to exceeding those high standards. 

What stood out to me, as someone who headed three national non-profit organizations and worked at two major medical centers, was that Ariel Kelley, also served as CEO of Corazon Healdsburg, a model of modern, non-profit health-care delivery for a small city, serving thousands of citizens who otherwise would not have access to health care.

 As a Healdsburg City Council member and then Mayor,  “Wheelhouse Kelley” carried through on her commitments to create more affordable housing, to provide shelter for the unhoused, and bring greater diversity into every aspect of life in our town of 11,000 residents, almost 30% of whom are Latino.

Additionally, two tangible, specific actions of “Wheelhouse Kelley” impressed me. 

At Healdsburg’s first joint celebration of Hanukkah and La Posada in our town’s Plaza, Kelley—herself, Jewish, like me—collaborated with leaders of our Latino community, to highlight the beauty of both cultures. Without missing a beat, “Wheelhouse Kelley,” moved from lighting a large menorah with Jewish community members, to–speaking in Spanish– handing off the torch of leadership to Latino community members—while dozens of young children walked with lighted candles to celebrate the feast of La Posada.  It was a beautiful and moving illustration of how to gracefully teach different groups in the community about the shared love and meaning of each other’s culture.  This was right in Kelley’s wheelhouse.

The second specific action came at a pubic meeting where proposals were unveiled for the expansion of the SMART Train to Healdsburg.  I attended the community meeting with a predisposition to favoring placing the SMART Train station at the old, run-down railroad station, and cutting off the final segment of the train to Cloverdale, to save time and resources, and reduce traffic problems.

It was as if I had lobbed a softball into Kelley’s “wheelhouse.”  Without missing a beat, nor losing her inherent desire to teach, Kelley explained to me why continuing the SMART Train past Healdsburg was essential, and that the money for it was already approved. 

“Because it’s such an agricultural community, it opens up new pools of funding for us,” Kelley said.  “And, many of the workers who work in Healdsburg, live up in the Cloverdale area where housing prices are a bit less expensive. Extending the train to Cloverdale gives those workers a direct means of getting to work, and helps serve the entire region.”

Kelley’s facts, her friendliness, her willingness to meticulously think through every detail with me, and her well-considered concern for all her fellow citizens of the area, won me over. 

After all, I was in “Wheelhouse Kelly’s” wheelhouse now.

One of Dr. King’s Disciples of Love, Hope, Humanity & Social Action.

To be in the presence of Bill Ayres, former Catholic priest and co-founder of WHY Hunger with Harry Chapin, is to be bathed in the warm glow of hope and love.

During this week that we celebrate, and try to replicate in some small way, the life and actions of Dr. Martin Luther King, Bill Ayres’ life gives us some practical instructions of just how to do it.

As with Dr. King, the driving forces of Bill Ayres’ activism are his faith, and his love of the dignity of all human beings.  It’s what’s guided Bill’s life for some six decades—in addition to a unique sense of how music can change individual lives, and through it, the world.  With the Grammy Awards less than three weeks away, it’s important to note the increasing urgency of intertwining the works of artists with social action, the way Harry Chapin did during the final decade of his brief life.

Our Bill Ayres of Huntington Station, NY, whom I know and love–the real Bill Ayres, as I call him, so he cannot be confused with the Chicago-area, headline-grabbing, violence-winking, Weather Underground’s Bill Ayers —is the real, long-term radical social activist. His indefatigable efforts fighting hunger and poverty continue to make a difference in thousands of lives each day. Beyond his remarkable work fighting hunger, poverty and food insecurity with singer/songwriter Harry Chapin, and the Chapin family over the past 5 decades, Bill Ayres’ own life and work is the stuff of inspiration. 

That’s why it’s fitting that Huntington’s Bill Ayres—our Bill Ayres– shares a birthday with long-time Civil Rights leader, Julian Bond, on the day before Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday. Not only did both men march and work with Dr. King, but they devoted most of their lives to practicing the kind of targeted, effective, never-ending non-violence which Martin Luther King preached.  Our Bill Ayres— and Julian Bond–personify the very best in service to others, which Martin Luther King Day has come to represent.

Both became aware of the continuing struggle for civil and human rights in this country at roughly the same time.  Bond co-founded the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) while a student at all-Black Morehouse College in 1960, where he first met Dr. King.  He risked his life registering new voters during Freedom Summer in Mississippi, in 1964.  Ayres, entered the seminary to study the priesthood, in 1963—not to escape the troubled world, but to embrace and repair it, influenced by the teachings of Catholic progressives like Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.

In 1966—the same year Bill Ayres entered the priesthood–the overwhelmingly white, male Georgia House of Representatives refused to seat Julian Bond —despite his being elected to represent his Georgia Legislative district—Martin Luther King came and preached against the illegal and racist action of the Georgia Legislature, and organized a march in support of Julian Bond’s right to serve.  Five years later, Bond co-founded the Southern Poverty Law Center, a leading civil rights organization, which continues to be a strong voice against discrimination and hate to this day, nearly a decade after Bond’s death at the age of 75, in 2015.

Bill Ayres, our Bill Ayers, would be the last person to encourage any comparison between his tireless efforts battling hunger, poverty and powerlessness, with the work of Julian Bond, or, especially of Dr. King.  Regardless of Bill’s self-effacing modesty, the similarities are there for all to see.

 Just after the 50th Anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, I interviewed our Bill Ayres, in the New York City headquarters of WHYHunger, and in the tranquil beauty of his beloved Heckscher Park in the Village of Huntington, L.I., not far from his home. We peacefully strolled around the Park’s calm lake, when I asked him about the influence of Dr. King on his life’s work:

 “In 1963, I was in the March on Washington, I was a kid, in the seminary.  Then I marched with him lots of times, heard him preach in the church, read all his stuff, and, I knew that racism was an evil; poverty was an evil and that they were all very much connected…”

Bill Ayres attended the Immaculate Conception seminary in Huntington for six years in the early 1960’s where he began reading Dr. King’s “stuff”, as he described it. 

 “The inspiration for me in all of this is, of course, the social teachings of the church and the Gospel of Matthew, and lots of other places.  King is kind of the one who put that into action.  Paulo Freire, a Brazilian educator driven out of after a military coup in 1964, wound up in Boston College and taught with a friend of mine up there and at UN.  I met him a few times and heard him speak.  He had this whole thing that the root cause of hunger is poverty and the root cause of poverty is powerlessness—I repeated this mantra to Harry Chapin a couple of times when I first met him.  That’s always been our theme.”

We stopped walking as Bill’s kind, gentle-blue eyes, underscored that point:

“It’s the powerlessness that comes from on top, from oppression; racial oppression, sexual and, economic injustice.  That’s where we came from and that’s where we’ve always been.

Serving Catholic parishes in conservative Long Island towns like Babylon and Seaford, Father Bill Ayres, did not look the part of the “radical priest,” despite, his deep, Catholic Worker beliefs.  I asked him if he ever met the Berrigans, the “radical priests” of the 1960’s, arrested on many occasions for protesting the War in Vietnam, and destroying draft board records, as depicted in the recent TV series “Fellow Travelers.”

“Interesting.  I met them, but didn’t know them. After I was ordained there was a priest friend of mine, who was a friend of the Berrigans.  And Berrigan invited him and me to meet Thomas Merton.  I never got there.  Berrigan couldn’t go and we cancelled the whole thing.  It’s one of those missed opportunities.  I was on marches with the Berrigans; I was part of the anti-war movement.  I would have loved to have met Merton.  His book, The Seven Storey Mountain, influenced me to become a priest.  He was a convert; He was a big influence on lots of people including me.  A remarkable man.”

Thomas Merton’s writings and teachings influenced not only Bill Ayres, but generations of progressive Catholic activists to move well beyond the fundamentalist strictures of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church establishment.  In the recent TV series “Fellow Travelers,” one of the main characters “Skippy,”—played by the actor Jonathan Bailey—is a Catholic, social activist who opposed the church’s complicity in the War in Vietnam as well as its’ dogmatic positions against marriage and homosexuality, kept a copy of Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain on his night table.

It was the Church’s unyielding restrictions against priests marrying that drove Bill Ayres from the organized priesthood.  After 13 years of serving two Catholic parishes, Bill met and fell in love with his wife, Jeannine, to whom he’s still married 45 years later.  But while, Ayres may have formally left the priesthood, his life of service to others never left him. His congregation grew to a national size when he met Harry Chapin by interviewing him on Ayres’ radio program “On The Rock,” in 1973.

Serendipitously, Chapin’s great-aunt through marriage was Dorothy Day, one of the heroic figures in Bill Ayres life:

“If You look on my desk, I have a picture of Dorothy Day.  I used to go down to her gatherings on Friday night on Christopher Street. (In NYC)  I was very influenced by Dorothy Day; she was one of my role models, radical Catholic, sort of who I am.  Harry and I talked about her, “Well, you know, I’m related to her,” he said, “and he was proud of it”.

It was Bill Ayres who alerted me to the remarkable book by Day’s granddaughter Kate Hennessy, “Dorothy Day:  The World Will Be Saved by Beauty,” which, in intimate and exquisite detail, illuminates the life that the revolutionary Catholic worker lived, and how much she accomplished for others.  And it was Bill, ever the teacher and mentor, who took from his personal bookshelf, a the dog-eared, underlined, hard-copy of a book—a guide for social action, really—which meant a lot to him—and gifted it to me.  It was his copy of Paulo Freire’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed, “ a blueprint for honoring—and acting for– the humanity in all of us.

Bill Ayres’ all-encompassing humanity can leave you in quiet awe, and I was sure he must have had the same effect upon Harry Chapin, whom he met while still a practicing priest.  I asked him if Harry believed in God:

“There’s an interesting thing here,” Ayres said.  “ I’m a Catholic priest here and he’s this rock and roll guy.  An interesting partnership. He loved it. He just thought it was a wild thing.  He called me “Wild Bill” because I did all this crazy stuff.  But he said to me, ‘you know, I’m not a believer; I come from a bunch of agnostics; I grew up in the Episcopal Church, I sang in the Episcopal Church.  But I’m not really religious. ‘

“However, he evolved.  And, part of the evolution was that he saw the goodness in the people who were running these food pantries and soup kitchens.  And he had this great line, “I believe in the believers.”

 “ Just a few months before Harry died, we were having this conversation about religion.  He said , “I believe in God.”  Big breakthrough.  “But I don’t believe in a god of fear or vengeance.  I believe in a god who loves people.  I believe in a God that gives lots of hugs.”  Harry liked to hug people.   He and I talked about Jesus over the years.  The whole thing is love and justice; it’s what’s it all about.”

 My favorite of Bill Ayres’ books, from which I seek inspiration, hope and guidance frequently, is his simple, soul-refreshing teaching tool which he wrote with his radio soul-mate, Pete Fornatale, entitled “All You Need Is Love..and 99 Other Life Lessons from Classic Rock Songs.”  The book is dedicated to Harry Chapin, especially for Chapin’s use of his music, song and story-telling gifts to help “millions more to have food in their stomachs, dignity in their lives and hope in their spirits.”

It’s what our Bill Ayres has devoted a lifetime of service to doing, and still practices every single day.  To me, it’s the perfect message, and model of behavior, for Martin Luther King Day, and for each love-filled moment of our lives.

Elise, Elise, You Busted Valise.

Elise Stef-An-ICK:  as sick as she’s slick–

That smile, that guile, that festering pile.

She knows “HOSTAGES,” are kidnapped by Hamas;

Not criminals arrested for attacking police with sticks.

At Harvard, she must have cut her Criminal Law class.

Elise, Elise, you busted valise,

You pitiful, pliable piece of wood.

Your every move is lathered with grease,

Fundamentally, you’re no good.

Election denier, serial liar,

You and Georgy Santos set your own pants afire.

Sixty courts ruled the election was fair,

So what? She said.  Why should I care?

At Harvard, she must have cut her ConLaw class there.

Elise, Elise, you busted valise,

You pitiful, pliable piece of wood.

Your every move is lathered with grease,

Fundamentally, you’re no good.

From pro-choice to pro-life,

With the flick of your tongue,

From Kasich to McCarthy to Trump,  all pure bung.

No flicker of remorse from your changes of heart—

None left.  You removed it yourself with a knife.

Stef-An-ICK, Stef-An-ICK–no time to panic,

Mere weeks after she’s stripped of her see-through Santos,

No ethos, or pathos, nor even his pilfered pantos.

Just whip up a new lie, a slimy line of attack,

Only this time let’s lynch someone who’s liberal and…Black.

Elise, Elise, you busted valise,

You pitiful, pliable piece of wood;

Your every move is lathered with grease,

Fundamentally, you’re no good.

Now it’s Harvard holding HOSTAGES,

With Elise at the gates,

Carrying her tiki-torch

Ablaze with her own self hate.

If only she could believe she was first-rate.

Like her Golden Calf she bellows, bullies, and averts her eyes,

Screams “anti-Semitism”, while winking at his use of Hitler’s

“Vermin” and  “Blood Poisoning” Big Lies.

Her mouth wide-open, like her pockets, for catching flies,

And money, from Extreme Right Wing dark money guys.

Elise, Elise, you busted valise,

You pitiful, pliable piece of wood,

Your every move is lathered with grease;

Fundamentally, you’re no good.

“Stef-An-ICK, Stef-An-ICK,” the J-6 crowd shrieks,

“Take care of our fascists, criminals, and hairy-horned creeps.”

“So we killed a few cops, and smashed through the Capitol’s windows & walls,

And defecated all over Congress’ halls. We’re the victims! We’re Hostages!’

And, waving her Harvard Law Degree, Stef-An-ICK said:  “I have to agree.”

Elise, Elise, you busted valise,

You pitiful, pliable piece of wood,

Your every move is lathered with grease;

Fundamentally, you’re no good.

Elise Stef-An-ICK, oleaginous up to her neck,

Has debased REAL Jewish Hostages,

By comparing those innocents to such criminal drek.

What has she hidden far back on her shelf,

Or deep down in the darkest hole?

Perhaps Elise is hiding what’s left of herself—

She’s already sold out her soul. 

In 2024, It’s Democracy vs. Nazism: Biden vs. Trump.

(Joe Biden throws down the gauntlet against the greatest threat to American Democracy since the Civil War, the last illegal insurrection vs. the United States Government.)

Here’s the link to the full speech given by Joe Biden at historic Valley Force, PA, on January 5, 2024–the day before the 3rd Anniversary of the violent insurrection against the government of the United States–organized and led by Donald Trump and his stormtroopers.

In his address, Biden cited specific quotes of the words “Vermin” and “Blood Poisoning” used repeatedly by Trump, echoing the precise terms used by Adolf Hitler in his speeches and in “Mein Kampf”, and in Nazi Propaganda agains the Jews.